What You Need To Know About The Route
The actual road trip itself from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone is great.
But it is arguably the least scenic compass direction to approach Yellowstone, considering some of the stunning landscapes found in the US northwest:
- From the South and Salt Lake City, you have scenic roads and majestic Grand Teton National Park.
- Those approaching from the North have one of the most dramatic parks in the US Glacier en route.
- Seattle and Portland to the West can choose between a multitude of staggering natural formations to include on a road trip itinerary.
But all hope is not lost. The journey from Mount Rushmore and South Dakota is still a very picturesque drive, as long you approach Yellowstone via its east entrance.
Important: If you are driving this route between October and May, please be sure to check on the NPS website for live road conditions at Yellowstone.
- If the East entrance access road is closed after Cody, try the Northeast entrance via Cooke City.
- Often both roads close under similar conditions and at that point your only alternative is to drive all the way around the top of Yellowstone to the North entrance at Gardiner via I-90.
As you might expect, I-90 isnt the most picturesque drive.
Top tip: If you have plenty of time , avoid I-90 as much as possible and drive US-14 the whole way into Yellowstone from pretty much Deadwood, SD!
Sioux Falls South Dakota
We made it to our first stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in just under nine hours from Chicago. Sioux Falls feature more than 70 parks, so finding a little nature, and a place to decompress is easy. Check out the waterfalls on Big Sioux River, north of downtown or another noteworthy park such as Terrace Park, McKennan Park, Sherman Park, and Yankton Park Trail.
Stop : Winding Down Your Yellowstone Road Trip
At this point in your Yellowstone road trip, you will not have much further to go and might be feeling a little nostalgic about this rugged place you have come to love. It is hard to visit Yellowstone without falling in love with the place.
Our recommended spots for this last stop are ones that will leave you with fond memories for the beauty and wildness of this magical place. Even if you do not take any souvenirs home with you, your time here will stay with you.
You will find beauty, power, and the beauty that results from chaos in these last stops.
Check These Ones Out Before You Go
Folks, there is a reason for this places name. Artist Point is an overlook for Yellowstones Grand Canyon, and it is an exceptional piece of nature. Between the canyon, the Yellowstone River that courses through it, and the Lower Falls waterfallthis place will bring every wilderness loving bit of your imagination to life.
Pine trees guide you along the very short 0.1 mile paved trail until you reach the Artist Point lookout. If you are up for a longer hike just stay on the path pst the trail and you will reach Point Sublime.
It is totally fine to just stop at Artist Point though. The view from there is hard to top, and we get it if you are a little hiked out at this point in your Yellowstone road trip.
Mud Volcano is a bubbling reminder of the power and heat that stirs below the surface of Yellowstone.
Nearby Places to Stay
Lake Yellowstone Hotel
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Day : Yellowstone National Park
Get ready for a full day of exploring Yellowstone National Park today! Start your morning with a visit to Mammoth Hot Springs, the other major geothermal area in the park. Here, the Albright Visitor Center is worth checking out, and there’s a cute general store in âtownâ where you might want to grab snacks for the day.
Park at the Upper Terraces and walk the boardwalks over the hot springs and down to a viewpoint of the terraces and Canary Spring. Then you can also walk down to the Lower Terraces and around all the crazy, steaming formations if you have time.
From Mammoth Hot Springs, either retrace your route south through Norris, or head east to Tower-Roosevelt and then make your way to Canyon Village. Check out the visitor center here to learn all about the Yellowstone Super Volcano, and grab a quick lunch at the Canyon Lodge Cafeteria.
Next, it’s on to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There’s a North Rim and a South Rim drive here, with several short hikes to overlooks. You can walk to the brink of both the Upper and Lower falls, and I also highly recommend driving out to Artist’s Point, which has arguably the best view of the entire canyon.
After spending some time at the canyon, spend the remainder of your afternoon/evening looking for wildlife.
After having some good wildlife sightings, continue to the Northeast Entrance of the park, where you’ll stay in Cooke City, Montana.
Total driving time: 4 hours
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Why Chicago To Yellowstone Is The Perfect Road Trip
Planning a road trip from Chicago to Yellowstone gives you flexibility. You can stay at each of these stops for as long as you want. Or you can be a bit more aggressive if you want to do the journey in a short amount of time.
This itinerary also ticks off many bucket list destinations. Youll visit four national parks and you could easily add more. Plus, a variety of wildlife. And the drive is split up in increments so youll have plenty of rest days. One thing to note: the drive time listed here is for standard cars. If youre towing an RV, add some time on to the drive.
If youre not towing an RV, each of these campgrounds also has cabin rentals.
Day : Jewel Cave National Monument And Devils Tower National Monument
Do: Start the day with a hike and a cave tour at Jewel Cave National Monument. Cave tours often fill up, so make an advanced tour reservation by contacting Black Hills Vacations or calling 717-7629. Advanced reservations are only available for Scenic Tours and can be made up to 72 hours before your arrival date, or up to 90 days in advance.
Next head to Devils Tower National Monument. Whether you are with kids or not, your will find many reasons to love Devils Tower. Circumambulate the Tower on the paved path, sit in the shade, or wander on the other trails.
Eat: Youll find fast food, diners, and a grocery stores in Newcastle, Upton, and Moorcroft, Wyoming.
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Chicago To Dakotas Black Hills To Yellowstone Road Trip
Its an all-American road trip: Pioneer legends, natural wonders and wildlife await on this 2,800-plus mile route.
Start in Chicago as your first stop on this incredible route through some of the nations most stunning prairies, wide-open skies and gorgeous mountain peaks.
From Chicago head west, stopping at the Akta Lakota Museum to discover northern Plains Indian history. Then head to the iconic Wall Drug in South Dakota and Badlands National Park. Beyond lies Mount Rushmore in Keystone, S.D., hot springs in well, Hot Springs, S.D., and two national parks that give you a rare glimpse into the underbelly of the Earth: Wind Cave and Jewel.
Come up for air and head to Custer for Broadway-caliber performances and wildlife viewing at nearby Custer State Park. Then head to the Crazy Horse Memorial, the largest monument carving in the world. This sculpture of Oglala Lakota Chief Crazy Horse is still under construction. Head to Deadwood to walk cobblestone-lined Main Street and to see Wild West reenactments. In Hill City, youll ride The 1880 Train and in Belle Fourche, you can tour a museum and relax under shaded trees.
In Wyoming, Gillette makes a great base to explore Devils Tower National Monument and Thermopolis offers dinosaur digs. After exploring Yellowstone National Park, head to Billings, Mont., and Medora, N.D., en route to Chicago.
Alternative Rapid Route: Fly Into Rapid City
For an alternative launch point to your road trip, fly into the Rapid City Regional Airport. Its the most direct route to the Black Hills, Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore. While your main destinations may be the national parks, make sure your travel plans include spending time in Rapid City itself.
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Where To Stay In Rapid City
A stay at the western themed Best Western Ramkota managed to be one of my kids favorites for our entire road trip primarily due to the splash-tastic waterpark attached to the hotel.
My young kiddos enjoyed exploring the pirate ship and water play toys, sliding down the boats, and splashing around the zero depth area. Older kids and adults seemed to enjoy taking a plunge down the huge water slides located a few stories high.
What To Do In Grand Junction
Grand Junction is the perfect stop because its close to Arches National Park, but youll also get a taste of city life. Theres plenty to do here and its a great place to restock during your trip. Here are some of the highlights near Grand Junction.
- Go on a hike through Arches National Park
- Sip on some beer at one of the local Grand Junction breweries
- Explore the Colorado National Monument
- Do some stand up paddle boarding on the Colorado River
Where to stay in Grand Junction: KOA Holiday
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Road Trips To Yellowstone National Park
This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in my disclosure.
Yellowstone is a dream destination for many people. But getting there can be just as much fun as being there. In this post, I share fun road trips to Yellowstone.
Youll find what to do and where to stay on the way to Yellowstone. And if you need more help planning your Yellowstone vacation, make sure to check out my itineraries and guidebooks or get in touch for personal help on planning a trip to Yellowstone.
You can also join my Facebook group: Yellowstone, Glacier, and Montana Trip Planning
Mount Rushmore To Yellowstone Road Trip: Amazing 10 Days Itinerary
Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Yellowstone National Park are two entirely different propositions but both are US bucket list juggernauts. Were going to show you the perfect way to bridge the gap, spending time in South Dakotas stunning Black Hills, where to stop along the road trip from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone and what to do once you arrive into Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
Combining South Dakota with Yellowstone is the perfect way to tick two giant bucket list US travel destinations off in one epic vacation.
Weve driven from Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills to Yellowstone twice and have created the perfect 10 day itinerary for you to use as a foundation for planning your own visit.
Were going to show you the very best things to do, where to stay and how to make the most of your visit to both South Dakota and Wyoming.
We have a ton of supplemental Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone resources to help you plan the perfect visit, which we will include in the appropriate sections in this road trip guide.
Lets get right into planning your unforgettable 10 day road trip from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone National Park!
*Please note this post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one of them, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! We recommend only products we use and as always, all ideas or opinions expressed in this post are entirely ours. Thank you for the support and happy travels!*
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Where To Eat In Sioux Falls
- Minervas : If youâre in the mood for fine dining, try Minervas, an iconic restaurant in downtown Sioux Falls. Enjoy a hand-cut steak, fresh salad, seafood plate, or pasta dish before strolling around the cityâs SculptureWalk, where a rotating collection of sculptures line the walkways to downtown restaurants and stores.
Olympic Peninsula Loop Road Trip
Circle the national park on this ultimate tour of the Olympic Peninsula with a stop at Cape Flattery the northwest-most point in the continental U.S.
After taking the ferry, visit Washingtons northern port towns. Then make a side trip across the water to Canadas Victoria, known for its gardens, beaches and museums.
Head back to the U.S. and into Olympic National Park to visit a triple waterfall, Cape Flattery and the famous beaches of the Pacific Northwest.
On the loop back, stop in a small town know for its oysters and a giant octopus.
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Rapid City South Dakota
Mount Rushmore in the Black HIlls of South Dakota | Photo by Cheryl Eugenio
Rapid City is a wonderful base camp to explore the Black Hills, Badlands, and Custer State Park.
No visit to the area is complete without seeing Mt. Rushmore, but dont you dare forget to grab a vanilla ice cream from the Jefferson Memorial Ice Cream shop located on site. Word is they use Jeffersons first vanilla ice cream recipe!
Ready for a fantastic drive? Follow the loop through Custer State Park where you will more than likely encounter burros, prairie dogs, and buffalo.
If time allows, drive through Needles Loop to experience hair pin turns and oh-so narrow tunnels.
Stop by Crazy HorseMemorial, not far from the Needles loop, to see the progress being made on an important memorial which will dwarf Mount Rushmore once completed.
Want to see bears? Our visit to Bear Country USA was quite honestly one of the most memorable parts of our trip.
This drive-through park wows visitors with up-close views of animals such as arctic wolves, big horn sheep, and mountain goats that call the park their home.
After driving through parts of the 200-acre park, get out on your own two feet to see baby bears, baby wolves, and other baby animals. End the day at Fort Hays Chuckwagon for toe tapping music, raunchy skits, and food served on tin plates.
But wait, theres more! Discover 26 Fun Things to do in the Black Hills of South Dakota.